Updated 22/07/21

You may already have a good idea of who your museum’s usual audiences are, but this demographic information may no longer be as relevant after reopening. The current lockdown situation is unique. A lot depends on how safe and financially secure people feel before they start visiting museums again.

It is likely that international visitors will be slower to return to the UK, but local families may be more interested in visiting museums than previously. Large segments of audiences also fall into shielded groups, so access needs will have to be supported in new ways.

Data gathered from Twitter has indicated that some visitors would feel more comfortable accessing heritage through outdoor and open-air venues as social distancing is much easier to achieve in that space. Museums should look at the outdoor aspects their sites and consider how these areas can be better used.

Please note that there are new rules for visitors wearing face coverings. Please see the resources section.

Research commissioned by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) in April 2020 suggests that visitors to tourist attractions:

  • Are more comfortable with the idea of visiting open-air sites and country parks.
  • Will avoid places which they perceive to be crowded or where there might be queues.
  • Will expect pre-booking options and social distancing measures.
  • Will expect staff to be visibly cleaning spaces and enforcing social distancing.
  • Will wait until they see others visit a tourist attraction before venturing out themselves.
  • The over-55s are the keenest to visit, but they also have the highest expectations of social distancing and good hygiene.
  • Londoners and the under 35s are the least likely to visit tourist attractions anytime soon.
  • Visitors want to know what safety measures you have in place before they visit and see them actively enforced during their visit.

Please note there are also new face covering rules:

o         Customers in private hire vehicles and taxis must wear face coverings (from 23 September).

o         Customers in hospitality venues must wear face coverings, except when seated at a table to eat or drink. Staff in hospitality and retail will now also be required to wear face coverings (from 24 September).

o         People who are already exempt from the existing face covering obligations, such as because of an underlying health condition, will continue to be exempt from these new obligations.

o         Guidance stating that face coverings and visors should be worn in close contact services will now become law. (from 24 September)

Questions to ask yourself

  • Who will your returning audiences be?
  • How can you best reach these audiences to tell them you are open again?
  • Will you need to change how you manage your visitors using traffic flow systems or timed ticketing arrangements?
  • What should your museum be physically offering (or not offering/keeping closed) to build public confidence in visiting?
  • Will your visitors need to use public transport to access your site? Can the risks of this be mitigated? Do you need to provide more advice ahead of visits?
  • What messages do you need to put out to help build public confidence and show your museum in a positive light?
  • What does engagement look like for audiences still isolating after lockdown lifts and prior to vaccine?
  • Have you considered the legal implications of reopening? Will you be able to guarantee that you have made reasonable and effective health and safety changes to protect your audiences?
  • Some research has suggested that the public may be worried about crowded venues. How will you reassure them about your social distancing measures and crowd management?
  • Can you investigate how you might open your grounds or outdoor spaces for small scale exhibitions or engagement work? What staffing would you need? Will you make charge for access? Will you need additional support?
  • How will you use outdoor spaces to manage queues or provide content in open-air spaces? What happens when it rains?
  • How can you provide engagement to shielded audiences?
  • Have you done a comprehensive risk assessment for returning visitors to ensure they will be safe?
  • Research suggests that visitors are looking for a personal welcome, instructions on how to visit safely, and enforcement of social distancing. Have you considered an introductory video for your website outlining the changes and requirements? This could be done on a phone and show visitors what to expect.


“A visit to a museum is a search for beauty, truth, and meaning in our lives. Go to

museums as often as you can.”

Maira Kalman,


Market Prospects for ALVA Members when the pandemic abates
Appendix 1

ALVA Attractions Recovery Tracker

Examples of video tours for visitors

How to create a virtual tour

Example of instructional website for planning visits

Reports on visitor attitudes post-Covid 19

‘Know Before you Go’ and ‘We’re Good to Go’

Face coverings and new rules

How to practise responsible tourism during COVID-19

Culture Restart Audience toolkit

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